Myanmar’s coup leaders have called on hundreds of thousands of government employees – doctors, garbage collectors, electricians – to put their “feelings” aside, give up their protests against the military and return to work.
But Monday even after the army placed armored vehicles on the street in a nightly show of powerworkers showed little interest in returning to their jobs.
Work stoppages that seem to be growing are undermining the ruling generals as they try to assert their authority over the population after seize power two weeks ago.
Walkouts have been particularly notable among government employees, including in the ministry that provides power nationwide, tax offices and the General Administration Department, which oversees a wide range of public services and public functions.
“There is no way we can work under a dictatorship,” said Dr. Kyaw Zin, a surgeon who led one of the country’s first walkouts at the government-run Mandalay General Hospital. “I’m pretty sure we can bring down the regime.”
The civil disobedience movement or CDM, as it is known, has broad support across the country. It is targeted the military’s extensive business interests and governmental functions essential to military rule as well as comprehensive street demonstrations and a noisy new evening ritual of knocks on pots and pans.
The huge outpouring of support is all the more impressive given the military’s brutal history of shooting down Democratic protesters in 1988 and 2007. An expert on the government’s public service system estimated that the country had about a million officials, and that about three-quarters of them had gone away from their jobs. Many are important in keeping the country going.
On Monday morning, soldiers began appearing on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and Mandalay, instead of police officers in prominent places, including near Yangon’s central bank.
Overnight, the military had stationed armored vehicles in the center of Yangon, apparently to intimidate the protesters. Instead, people placed posters on the vehicles with slogans such as “We do not want military government” and posed with them for group photos.
To prevent police from reaching a protest site on Monday, motorists parked their cars on the street and lifted the hoods as if to signal that they had engine problems, creating a traffic jam.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup on 1 February, had sent a call for government workers to return to work last week, saying they had been encouraged by “unscrupulous people.”
“We will never return to work until he retires,” said Dr. Kyaw Zin, the surgeon who led one of the first walkouts. “He has no right to ask us to come to work because no one recognizes him as a leader. He must resign. This must be the last coup in Myanmar. We will fight for it. ”
The doctor also noted that his patients could come to him at a private hospital without any problems.
Yangon residents have begun taking their household waste to the neighborhood’s trash can after the home pickup was stopped by the garbage collectors’ walkout.
Consumers have also begun boycotting military-owned companies, including the once-popular Myanmar Beer and a chain of gold and jewelry stores owned by a member of the military’s new ruling body, the State Administration Council.
In the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, the country’s power supply, about 60 percent of employees have joined the movement and left their jobs, said U Pyae Sone Ko Ko, a lineman who has stopped working.
A large number of employees are meter readers, he noted, and if they do not do their job, the ministry cannot send bills.
Some ministry staff who have stopped working have stationed themselves in their offices at night to prevent authorities from turning off electricity before conducting night attacks and arrests.
Other ministries have urged customers not to pay their bills, noting that the ministry cannot legally turn off their electricity due to non-payment for three months.
“We have to join the CDM to stop the regime and abolish the dictatorship,” said Pyae Sone Ko Ko.
Similarly, many workers in private banks have left the job hoping to bring the regime to its knees by hindering transactions and slowing down the economy.
“If we stop working, the economic sector will stop working,” said Daw Thandar Kyaw, a banker who joined the walkout. “My Aung Hlaing and the military dictators worry about the economy because they love money. I strongly believe that we can bring down the dictators if all bank staff join the CDM. “
In Mandalay on Monday afternoon, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the offices of the state-run Myanmar Economic Bank, urging staff to take part in the march. Soldiers and police officers broke up the protest, chasing some protesters into nearby houses and beating them.
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